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Mar 4, 2010 09:03 AM

Has anyone tried Kushi yet?

Was gong to try it this weekend and curious to know what people think.

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  1. I have. Bottom line: run don't walk to Kushi. Excellent grilled items, sprawling list of imported beverages, reasonably priced.

    4 Replies
    1. re: monkeyrotica

      Monkeyrotica, I'm surprised to hear you comment that it's reasonably priced. I haven't been yet, but I had lunch today with someone who has, and he reported that it was shockingly expensive. He said that he and his brother were both very hungry when they went and, given the small portions, had to order a lot. The bill was so high that he said that he wouldn't recommend it for anything other than appetizers before going off to your next meal.

      1. re: Garlic Guy

        Everybody's got their own idea of "reasonably priced." I just know I've had worse sushi and grilled small plates at three-times the price and STILL left hungry. I also don't think this is the place you want to go to if you're downtown, you're really hungry, and you want to save money. And as I mentioned in the Yelp review, if you're STILL hungry, there's still the Pattison Avenue sub next door at Taylor Gourmet.

        Anyway. here's a link to their menu so people can get an idea of what they're getting into.

        1. re: monkeyrotica

          I figured it was unfair of me to criticize the place without having tried it, so I had dinner at Kushi tonight.

          Overall, I liked it. I was alone and ate at the grill bar. I liked the atmosphere--spacious without being impersonal, modern Asian decor, well-laid out with clean sightlines, friendly staff, etc. Service was excellent; my waiter was attentive without being annoying, and was very helpful in explaining some of the more unusual features of the restaurant or items on the menu.

          The food was interesting, and I had a good time trying various dishes. Nothing was bad, though some if it was a bit disappointing. Overall, I noted that the flavors tended towards the subtle side and were maybe a little bland. I dislike spicy food and would rather have something with a muted taste than with a strong bad taste, so that wasn't all bad. I probably should have made greater use of the soy sauce, wasabi, etc. that my waiter provided, but I normally like to try things as they come out of the kitchen on my first visit and generally have simple enough tastes that I usually don't need to add anything.

          I had five dishes, plus dessert. From the Rebata (the charcoal grill), I tried the Japanese eggplant. The portion was surprisingly large for only $3. As noted, the flavors were subtle, and I probably should have been better about dipping them in sauce. Still, this was not a bad purchase.

          I also had the salmon nigiri. At $5 for two pieces, this is priced about what I would expect, but wasn't a great bargain. I'm not a huge sushi fan, but I enjoyed this.

          The cucumber maki cost $6 for six pieces. It tasted fairly similar to most other cucumber maki that I've had, which is fine. It was served with the sushi, and the two worked well together.

          From the "Garden" section of the menu, I tried the garlic ($2). I'm a huge garlic fan--note my screen name--but was somewhat disappointed in this. I received a skewer with seven peeled cloves of garlic on it. The garlic had apparently been roasted long enough to lose most of its pungency, but not long enough to develop the sweet flavor of fully roasted garlic. The result was fairly bland.

          Finally, from the "kushiyaki" section of the menu, I had chicken breast with shiso and plum sauce. This was okay. There were only three pieces, which were fairly small, but that's not unreasonable for $4 (I believe the menu said $5, but I was only charged $4). I enjoyed the taste of this one. I found it to be just a tiny bit spicy, but not overpoweringly so. I have an extremely low threshold for spicy food, so I imagine that most people wouldn't even notice the spiciness in this dish.

          I had the ginger gelato for dessert, which I really enjoyed. That cost $2.50.

          I note that the menu that Monkeyrotica posted lists a vegetarian sushi set, but I did not see this in the list of sushi sets on my menu. I forgot to ask my waiter about it.

          Overall, I liked this place. The food was generally good, though again some of the dishes I tried were a little on the bland side. To be fair, though, I was fairly conservative in the dishes that I chose, and other dishes may well have been more flavorful. I wasn't very hungry when I went into the restaurant, and I was somewhat less hungry when I left, but I wasn't as full as I like to be when I leave restaurants, and as I type this an hour later I'm already fighting the urge to raid my refrigerator. I could easily have ordered more food, but at about $25 (including a Coke, but no alcohol; excluding tip), I wouldn't consider this place cheap. For me, the biggest selling point is the atmosphere. Again, I was also very happy with the service.

          I would definitely go back with foodie friends interested in trying a bunch of different things, and would consider this to be a fun date place, but I don't think it's a place to go when you're hungry unless you're planning on spending a fair amount of money.

          1. re: Garlic Guy

            I’d second the subtle, muted flavors of the grilled items. Kushi isn’t the place to go if you want strong, bold flavors or heavily seasoned items. But if you like to taste clams roasted in their own juice or the flavor of rice or just to relax in a nice space with hot sake or a cold beer, you can do a lot worse. I guess the thing that suprised me the most was how well run the place is considering it just opened.

    2. Went here last night and was very impressed - The fish was extremely fresh and very traditional - Nice to see when it seems most new sushi restaurants are going fusion (sorry, I love foie gras - just not with my fish). Very nice Sake list, and the addition of Grilled items was a nice touch...Please forgive my spelling errors!

      Chawanmushi - Good to see this on the Menu, Dashi-based custard with chicken, shrimp, soybean, etc.
      Grilled Short Rib - With sea salt rather than their sauce - Awesome beef flavor, a tad chewey but forgivable due to the cut
      Miatake Mushroom - The only disappointment - Bland and dry
      Toro - We got the "Super Fatty" and it melted in our mouth, some of the best we have had. Expensive, but worth it for a bite or two ($14 for two small pieces)
      River Eel - Good, fresh - More Eel flavor an not drenched in sweet sauce like most
      Salmon - Probably the best we have ever had - Tender, silky, and fresh
      Raw Scallop - also the best we've had, simply sliced- We reordered a second and he served it with sea salt - A nice treat!
      Fresh Prawn (aka Sweet Shrimp) - delicious, although I wish it was served with the traditional fried heads - I should have asked!
      Spicy Tuna Roll - Good, nothing special - I am not a fan since the seasonings usually overpower the fish, but my wife likes them
      Real Crab California Rool - Very good crab flavor, nice sauce.
      Tamago - Typical but prettier than most

      The service was extermely attentive, with the exception of clearing plates - Kind of strange, but with more and more plates coming, we had to ask them to clear the old ones!

      Overall, an excellent meal and we definately will go back - Very pricy for us, but worth it every now and then.

      1. Had lunch here this week; it's not for everyone, but it's not bad at all if you know what you're in for. To wit: the food seems to be small plates of very good quality ingredients, prepared *very* simply.

        The chicken w/ wasabi, for example, was a skewer with three (small but moist and flavorful) pieces of chicken, grilled and then each topped with a tiny dollop of wasabi paste. That's it--pretty much no marinade or seasoning to note; there is soy and togarashi on the table, though, a little of each of which made the "dish" (inasmuch as it can be called a dish) come together. The chicken w/ cod roe was basically the same thing--chicken with a dab of roe on top.

        The duck sausage wasn't quite so subtle, but still needed a little seasoning from the tabletop condiments.

        The pork products are better choices for people who want strong flavors; they can be ordered either with salt or with tare sauce (soy, sugar, mirin, and sake), and the latter in particular is probably the strongest flavor of any of the items we had.

        Based on my first visit, I would definitely view this as more of a sake bar (they've got a very extensive sake menu that I'm looking forward to exploring) that serves good noshes than as a full-blown restaurant, though. As monkey says, if you're hungry, Taylor Gourmet is next door.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sweth

          I went to Kushi with a party of seven so we had a table instead of sitting at the bar. I managed to snag the last chicken skin of the night which made me pretty happy. I think we tried about 15 things, and I won’t list them all. I thought the hamachi and other shushi were excellent and fresh, but for once the o-toro did nothing for me . I wouldn’t call kushi cheap, and to get full you have to order quite a bit, but it won’t break the bank either. Portions were a little strange in that skewers of the same item would sometimes have different amounts of pieces. The service was a bit spotty, but clearly excusable in such a big space that just opened. I’d been to a more downscale izakya place the weekend before in LA and it made for an interesting comparison.

        2. I've been hearing really good things about this restaurant and am planning on checking it out soon (although it seems like it might be a hard reservation to get considering all the great reviews).

          Living Social today has a great deal $25 for $50 worth of food. This is now my perfect excuse to check it out.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Elyssa

            Elyssa, thanks for posting the coupon.

            I live near Kushi and walk by there frequently. They're not hurting for customers, but the place is huge, so even when there are a lot of people there it still seems like they have plenty of room. Your mileage may vary, of course, particularly now that this coupon--which I've now seen linked to three separate websites--is floating around out there.

            Let us know what you think!

            1. re: Garlic Guy

              At the time I purchased the coupon over 2,000 people had already used it! haha

              Question about the $50--is that something you can spend easily there with food and drinks in one visit? If I go with my boyfriend I'm sure it won't be an issue but if I go alone or with a friend (where we might divide the check) $50 seems like it might be a lot of food considering the menu. How small are the small plates?

              1. re: Elyssa

                My review above (the fourth reply to the OP, posted on March 9) might help you answer this question. Basically, I spent $25 by myself for dinner, with a soda but no alcohol. I restrained myself from spending more. I wasn't very hungry when I got to the restaurant, and wasn't full when I left, so if I had a $50 coupon I'm sure I could have arrived hungry and spent significantly more money. Going with two people I'd say you're almost guaranteed to hit $50 even if you don't buy alcohol (if your issue is how you would divide that with your friend, I guess that's something you can work out).

                To put it in perspective, the only other person I've known who's gone there went with his brother, and the two of them together spent close to $200, mostly on food rather than alcohol. Apparently, the brother was starving and just kept ordering food, so you might not be able to spend quite as much, but there you go.

                1. re: Elyssa

                  It also depends on the type of food you order. There are selections of sushi where you can easily spend $50 alone and not be full but eat some amazing fish. It all depends on what you order, but $50 a person, let alone for two, will be easy to spend.

                  1. re: pineapple sage

                    If you like sake, dropping $50 there will be very easy; I believe the cheapest one on the menu is $9 for a shot. (Their sakes all have around a 100% markup over retail, which isn't unreasonable as compared to wine; they just tend to stock good sake and sake tends to be pricey to begin with.)

                    Conversely, the grilled clam at $1.50 each is probably the best bargain on their menu, and for $50 you could get 33 of them, which would probably be a few too many for one person. (I know I couldn't have more than one or two dozen, and maybe a bowl or two of chawanmushi...)

                    Kushi Izakaya
                    465 K St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    1. re: sweth

                      Thanks for all of your replies. I'm just checking back to this post now because I just made reservation for Kushi in a few weeks when my boyfriend is in town. I'm really excited to check it out, especially because I've been hearing so many good things.

                      I've read everyone's posts and there seem to be a lot of items to chose from. If you had 1 or 2 MUST TRY items what would they be? (We don't eat a lot of pork so maybe chose something other than the pork belly haha).

              2. re: Elyssa

                I'll second pineapple sage. Some of the vegetarian dishes are quite reasonably priced, along with the pickled dishes. Of course, the wagyu beef dishes are going to be steep. And I'll echo a previous poster's sentiment that if you're interested in stronger flavors and more intense seasonings, you're best bets are the beef and pork options. The beef rib was quite rich but was not fall-apart tender; if you're expecting something more akin to a beef rib braise, you'll probably be disappointed. The pork belly was also quite flavorful. The emphasis on the seafood was freshness with just a touch of salt. To some, this is subtle and muted; to other's, it might be dull. Depends on what you're used to.

                I took my Japanese mother to Kushi yesterday for Mother's Day and she was impressed with the quality of the seafood (she particularly enjoyed the baby squid) as well as the service and the sake selection. We arrived just as they opened at 5:30; we left at 7 and the place was quite full. Also, if you have kids with you, the staff is very accomodating. They offered a highchair to my 5-year-old, although he didn't need it, and I saw a couple of younger children enjoying bowls of rice and edamame. The kids got a real kick out of watching the meats and fish get grilled over charcoal, but I guess all kids like watching people play with fire.

                I think it's important to keep in mind that izakayas in Japan for the most part are places for businessmen to have a good stiff drink after work and a few bites of food before heading home. They were never really designed to be a destination restaurant. I don't know how Kushi will evolve to meet the needs of their customers, but as a place with a decent selection of sakes and beers and a broad range of small dishes, it works very well. For me at least.

              3. I went this weekend and liked it a lot. I sat at the grill bar - it was fun to watch the action. I was using a $50 Living Social coupon -- I figured it would be easy to spend it by myself and it certainly was. All the dishes are very small - just 1-3 bites each, so it was easy to put away a lot of plates of food.

                I started with a dry plum wine that was wonderful. I'm a big fan of plum wines and hadn't had one this dry before. I got Japanese eggplant, an oyster, a clam, pork belly (salt), wagyu (tare), savory seafood custard, and - my favorite - yakionigiri (it was plum the day I was there). The pork belly was delicious and I think I prefer the salts that are served with the meats instead of ordering the sweeter "tare" preparation - but both were good. I loved the custard, which was almost too hot to eat (I love that). I had a good Japanese hefeweizen as well.

                For dessert, I had a wonderful black sesame ice cream, served with a delicious piece of candied ginger.

                On my next trip, I'll re-order the yakionigiri for sure and probably the pork belly skewers and the black sesame ice cream as well, but they had so many things on the menu I wanted to try I would want to branch out further.

                As mentioned above, the service is really excellent and the space is airy and pleasant. I really liked Kushi a lot, and appreciate that there isn't really anything like it elsewhere in DC.

                1 Reply
                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  I've been back a numberof times now. It seems like each time just gets better and better!